India To Announce Decrease In HIV/AIDS Caseload Estimate

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India this week is expected to announce a decrease in the estimatednumber of HIV/AIDS cases nationwide and a sixfold increase in spendingon HIV prevention programs during the next five years, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (Lahiri, AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/1).

Thenumber of actual HIV/AIDS cases in India might be millions fewer thancurrent estimates, according to a new, unreleased household survey. UNAIDSestimates from 2006 show that there are about 5.7 million people livingwith HIV/AIDS in India. However, a preliminary analysis of the NationalFamily Health Survey -- which was conducted under internationalsupervision and with U.S. funding -- suggests that India has betweentwo million and three million people living with HIV/AIDS, according toseveral sources, including U.S. epidemiologists and the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The survey concluded last year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/11).

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Although Indian officials will not disclose the new estimate, National AIDS Control OrganizationDirector-General Sujatha Rao said there will "certainly be a decline"in the estimate. Denis Broun, head of UNAIDS in India, said that whenUNAIDS gave the current estimate of 5.7 million, the agency "said itcould [be] as low as 3.4 million and as high as nine [million]. That isa very broad range. It might be that it could be even lower." Localmedia reports have said the new estimate likely is around three millionto 3.5 million cases, AFP/Yahoo! News reports.

Someofficials have said the decrease in the estimated number of HIV/AIDScases likely is because of improved, more accurate data. Broun saidthat India has increased the number of testing sites where samples aretaken from both low- and high-risk groups. "We also have apopulation-based survey, we have a good behavioral surveillance survey,a whole set of surveys has been done in high-presence states amonghigh-risk groups," Broun added.

According to NACO epidemiologistAjay Kumar Khera, more than 1,100 testing sites were used to generatethe new estimate, compared with 700 for the earlier estimate. Kheraadded that northern India had been underrepresented in previousestimates, skewing the nationwide estimate toward the south, which hasa larger number of HIV cases. Rao said that the country would not scaledown its HIV prevention efforts if the estimate is lower. "It's not acurable disease. The mode of transmission is due to reasons over whichthere is very little human control: private and personal behaviors likesex," Rao said, adding, "Numbers don't matter. To bring in behaviorchange is a tough call, so you can't ever relax or it's just a matterof time before [HIV] can invade the whole country."

Inaddition, an unnamed government official has announced that about $3billion will be dedicated to the next phase of India's HIV preventionefforts, which will be launched on Friday in New Delhi. One-third ofthe funding will come from foreign donors, the official said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/1).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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